Lawyers for the parents of an underage UC Berkeley college student who was killed by a car after drinking alcohol at a USC fraternity party will have to shore up their wrongful death/negligence allegations for the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter to remain a defendant in the family’s lawsuit, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Hess ruled there were insufficient details in the lawsuit filed by Raul Vasquez and Wendy Margolin to demonstrate liability by TKE’s Beta-Sigma chapter in the death of their son. However, the judge said there were enough facts to keep Nico Stillman, a Beta- Sigma officer, in the case for now.
Eloi Vasquez, a 19-year-old UC Berkeley soccer player, was killed when he ran across lanes of traffic on the eastbound Santa Monica (10) Freeway, east of Vermont Avenue, about 2:30 a.m. on March 27, 2015, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Vasquez had earlier attended a party at the fraternity house near USC that was being held to publicize the Heaps cellular telephone app, according to his parents’ lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 27.
The lawsuit, which also names the national board of the fraternity, USC and other defendants, alleges Vasquez was served alcohol despite the fact that he was underage. Additionally, the plaintiffs blamed the fraternity for allowing their son to leave the party by himself even though it was apparent that he was intoxicated.
Hess said he agreed with the defense that Beta-Sigma was not a “parent, guardian or another adult” that would allow the plaintiffs to argue that the fraternity chapter did not have immunity under the state’s Civil Code. But he concurred with the plaintiffs’ attorneys that Stillman did not have such immunity.
The judge said neither Beta-Sigma nor Stillman were liable under the state Business and Professions Code because no alcohol was actually sold during the party. But plaintiffs’ attorney Jennifer Gilman argued that an actual sale of alcohol to Vasquez was not required, and that the mere requirement that he download the Heaps app was enough to establish liability.
“They could not get in the door unless they downloaded this app,” Gilman said.
Vasquez was a freshman at UC Berkeley and a midfielder with the soccer team.
Other similar motions from the other defendants are scheduled to be heard later this month and in early November.
–City News Service